Culinary treasures unveiled: Dive into the Brèdes exhibition at the Blue Penny Museum

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    Colleen Michaels /
Published on 2023-11-29 at 13:00 by Lila Chaleon*
The Blue Penny Museum is currently hosting a free exhibition dedicated entirely to brèdes (leafy vegetables). The exhibition, running until January 13, 2024, results from a collaboration between artists Deepa Bauhadoor and Emmanuel Richon. Discover this star of local cuisine with

The history of brèdes

Consumed around the world since ancient times, brèdes are vegetable plants whose leaves are eaten. The origin of the word "brède" goes back to the Portuguese "bredo", referring to the Amaranthus plant. In the Mascarene archipelago, it is believed that the tradition of eating brèdes has been introduced in the 17th century by Malagasy slaves from Cape Town, who imported this dietary practice from their homeland.

Once essential to the food security of urban populations, brèdes were produced and available all year round at the market. Compared with fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes, brèdes are more resistant to heavy rains and require less irrigation and labor, growing rapidly along the streets. Not so long ago, you could get them just about anywhere in Mauritius.

Dozens of varieties of bredes

In Mauritius, brèdes hold a special place in the local cuisine. Boiled or sautéed, they generally accompany rice-based dishes. Indeed, brèdes are versatile in the kitchen, and their taste varies from sweet to bitter depending on their variety and the way they are prepared.

Mauritius boasts an impressive variety of brèdes, each bringing its own unique flavor to Mauritian dishes. Each variety has its own characteristics in terms of taste, texture or nutritional benefits.

Moringa (locally known as brède mouroum) is one of the most popular varieties in Mauritius. Highly nutritious, their foliage and slightly bitter taste make them an essential ingredient in many Mauritian dishes. Taro leaves, locally known as brèdes songes, are broad, dark-green leaves and mild. They have an almost sweet taste and enrich local dishes such as Mauritian roti or dholl puri. Chow chow leaves, also called brèdes chouchou, are known for their meaty texture and are preferred alongside curries and rougailles (a savory tomato sauce comprising other ingredients). And what would a chop suey, meefoon or magic bowl (bol renversé) be without bok choy? Locally called tom pouce brèdes, this flat-leafed cabbage plunges us into the heart of Asian flavors. Not to be confused with brèdes pet sai, a variety of Chinese cabbage with white and pale green leaves.

Numerous nutritional benefits

Besides their taste, these leafy vegetables offer an impressive range of health benefits. They are rich in essential nutrients such as vitamins A, C and K, as well as minerals such as iron and calcium. They are also an excellent source of fiber, facilitating digestion and helping to maintain a healthy digestive system. Rich in antioxidants, they also help fight free radicals, playing a role in the prevention of various diseases.

Mauritians use these leafy vegetables in a variety of dishes, usually as a side dish. Traditionally, brèdes are prepared in broth, fricasseed, stewed or sautéed, but some varieties, such as watercress, can also be eaten raw, for example, in a salad. If you're looking for a healthy option, consider a smoothie! You can simply grind them to a powder or blend them directly into your smoothie alongside your favorite fruits, but make sure you choose a variety that does not need cooking.

There are more than fifty species of leafy vegetables in the Mascarene Islands. You can find out more about their history and properties at the exhibition.